The Ecovillage Experience - Connecting people to Nature!
With much eagerness and curiosity, we stepped out of the vehicle into the beautiful premises of the Bawum Ecovillage, Bafut after a 30-minute ride from the town. We had little knowledge of what an Ecovillage was all about! Then, we were ushered into the hall! We were delighted to learn that the Ecovillage is a self-sustainable, socially, culturally, economically, ecologically and environmentally friendly community project in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. The Bawum Ecovillage is a member of the Global Ecovillage Network.* The resilience of the Ecovillage was clear, as it employs the use of clean forms of energy (solar and biogas). We had learnt about these forms of energy in the classroom – this was a time to practice more! The first activity which marked our day in the Ecovillage was a visit to the Bafut palace as well as the Royal Museum (the most historic in the grass field region of the nation, recognized by UNESCO). This gave us a retrospective view of the culture and history of the Bafut people. There was no better way of embarking on a discovery-and-immersion journey to the Ecovillage without learning about the roots of the Bafut people!
This group of elegant Canadian students known as the SymBioSyn** as well as volunteers at the Better-world community, rolled out the red carpet to us! They split us up into various teams and we immediately went to work! Sweet volunteering, to protect and preserve the ecosystem! We harmoniously participated in the last phase of the Ecovillage Development Education (EDE), an initiative of Gaia Education***.
This three-day immersion program consisted of innovative activities such as the extraction of Citronella Oil from citron-containing plants (the lemon grass) conducted by Ebosetalé Eiyegbeni (a PhD Student), the construction of a water tank to recycle rain water, the production of green charcoal by burning corn peelings and cassava, the sensitization of the community on the health benefits of the ginger plant and the postulation of strategies to enhance social sustainability of the Ecovillage and the immediate community. All the activities in the EDE are geared towards the promotion of holistic development in Africa, in cooperation with the Global Ecovillage Network.
We could at this point understand better Robert Gilman’s definition of an Ecovillage as "a human-scale full-featured settlement in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development, and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future”.
On the day before our departure, there were numerous presentations of the enticing research findings of very specialized teams focusing on four pillars of sustainability: - the Environmental/Ecology team, the Economic team and the Social + Cultural team, who all applied their skills from Engineering to Economic management. We took a lot of notes!
Then, we took part in an activity in which we used clay to mold anything of our choice. It was time to show artistic skills and every one of us strove to be titled, “Potter of the Day”.
In the evening, there was an official closing ceremony in which the representative of the Fon (Ruler) of Bafut, the Queen Mother and the Fon of Bawum were present. Gifts and certificates were handed to participants, who had generously put in weeks of volunteering in the Ecovillage. The evening was then boosted by an orchestra from the Franco-Cameroon Alliance (AFC) which thrilled the crowd with their musical performance. This brought everyone to his/her feet. The Ecovillage was electrified! Some of the Canadians and locals took the stage to showcase their talent in singing, playing the guitar etc! Even some periodic moments of power outage could not stop the fun - we all switched to childhood fun-games and songs and dancing! We got even closer to nature in culture and rhythms, which transcend race! They brought our common humanity and love for nature to the fore! The fun was contagious and no one could resist!
It was with much satisfaction that we left the Ecovillage at dawn, with plans to return sooner and spend more time in learning ideas which would revolutionize the continent and mitigate the effects of climate change!
Our sincere thanks to Sonia L. Buma, the entire SymBioSyn Team and the Better World Cameroon Team****. This was an experience like none other!
By Afahnwi Precious, Chinyere Nadine, Fondzenyuy Tonylouis, Forsi Ferdinand, Evelin Mokom, Chebesi Daphne & Nchopereu Nelson (ALA)
Open Dreams Pre-Scholars and African Leadership Academy (ALA, SA) Fellow on Community Volunteering!